Archive for the ‘Malaysia’ Category

The wolf of Perdana Putra (aka “Malaysian Official 1”)

July 21, 2016

Perdana Putra

Office of The Prime Minister of Malaysia, Main Block, Perdana Putra Building, Federal Government Administrative Centre, 62502 Putrajaya, MALAYSIA

1MDB rolls on and it is probably getting quite warm in Perdana Putra. But whether Najib Razak is feeling the heat is not so certain.

Wall Street JournalU.S. prosecutors have linked the prime minister of Malaysia, a key American ally in Asia, to hundreds of millions of dollars allegedly siphoned from one of the country’s economic development funds, according to a civil lawsuit seeking the seizure of more than $1 billion of assets from other people connected to him.

The Justice Department filed lawsuits Wednesday to seize assets that it said were the result of $3.5 billion that was misappropriated from 1Malaysia Development Bhd., or 1MDB, a fund set up by Prime Minister Najib Razak in 2009 to boost the Malaysian economy. …. Among the Justice Department’s assertions: That some $1 billion originating with 1MDB was plowed into hotels; luxury real estate in Manhattan, Beverly Hills and London; fine art; a private jet and the 2013 film “The Wolf of Wall Street.” Among those behind the spending, the lawsuit alleges, was Riza Aziz, stepson of Mr. Najib.

BBC: Malaysian PM Najib Razak is facing pressure internationally and at home amid US allegations of massive fraud at state investment fund 1MDB. The fund was set up by Mr Najib in 2009 with the stated aim of boosting the Malaysian economy.

But US Attorney General Loretta Lynch said evidence showed it had defrauded Malaysians “on an enormous scale”. On Wednesday, US authorities moved to seize more than $1bn (£761m) in assets related to the fund. Mr Najib is not named in the papers and has consistently denied wrongdoing.

But he is identifiable as “Malaysian Official 1”, whose account allegedly received millions in funds originating from 1MDB. The $1bn the US hopes to seize would make up only a proportion of the more than $3.5bn (£2.6bn) allegedly diverted.

I haven’t heard – yet – that Leonardo DiCaprio is being investigated.


 

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Leonardo di Caprio’s movie was financed from corrupt 1MDB Malaysian fund

April 2, 2016

Di Caprio spends much of his time posturing as an environmentalist and anti-corruption champion, but I am not very much impressed. He chooses to support whatever is in vogue or “politically correct” or can get publicity, with little exercise of mind. Right now he is in Indonesia protesting against the palm oil industry and the Indonesian government has even had to remind him that he could be deported for anti-government activities.

It now turns out that his 2013 movie “Wolf of Wall Street” was financed from the infamous Malaysian 1MDB fund.

Wall Street Journal:

Investigators believe much of the cash used to make the Leonardo DiCaprio film about a stock swindler originated with embattled Malaysian state development fund 1MDB.

Despite the star power of Leonardo DiCaprio and director Martin Scorsese, the 2013 hit movie “The Wolf of Wall Street” took more than six years to get made because studios weren’t willing to invest in a risky R-rated project.

Help arrived from a virtually unknown production company called Red Granite Pictures. Though it had made just one movie, Red Granite came up with the more than $100 million needed to film the sex- and drug-fueled story of a penny-stock swindler.

Global investigators now believe much of the money to make the movie about a stock scam was diverted from a state fund 9,000 miles away in Malaysia, a fund that had been established to spur local economic development.

The investigators, said people familiar with their work, believe this financing was part of a wider scandal at the Malaysian fund, which has been detailed in Wall Street Journal articles over the past year.

The fund, 1Malaysia Development Bhd., or 1MDB, was set up seven years ago by the prime minister of Malaysia, Najib Razak. His stepson, Riza Aziz, is the chairman of Red Granite Pictures.

The 1MDB fund is now the focus of numerous investigations at home and abroad, which grew out of $11 billion of debt it ran up and questions raised in Malaysia about how some of its money was used. …..

…… The story of how “The Wolf of Wall Street” was financed brings together Hollywood celebrities with a cast of characters mostly known for their connections to the Malaysian prime minister. It detours through parties in Cannes and aboard a yacht, and spending on such embellishments as a rare, million-dollar movie poster and an original 1955 Academy Award statuette. ……. Shooting began in August 2012. Three months later, when Mr. DiCaprio had a birthday, the Red Granite principals forged a closer tie to him with an unusual gift: the Oscar statuette presented to Marlon Brando in 1955 for best actor in “On the Waterfront.” People who described the gift said the statuette had been acquired for around $600,000 through a New Jersey memorabilia dealer. …..

 

Wolf of Wall Street Financing (graphic WSJ)

Wolf of Wall Street Financing (graphic WSJ)

So, what’s new?


 

Democracy in Malaysia: “In Islam, it is mandatory to obey the ruling leader”

December 11, 2015

 

You have to laugh when politics and religion get together. Otherwise it would be hard to stop crying.

This is from The Sun in Malaysia today.

Loyal and Obedient The Sun

Loyal and Obedient The Sun

Of course Najib has been divinely appointed.

Now if only St. Jeremy Corbyn could rely on a similar loyalty and obedience, it should not be too difficult to make Islam the State religion also in the UK. As Donald Trump points out that’s not too far away in any case. Of course the position of the Queen, who is anointed by a quite different divinity, might be a little uncertain.

Loyal and Obedient

Loyal and Obedient

 

 

Johor could manage without Malaysia, but Malaysia without Johor would collapse

October 18, 2015

The corruption in the Malaysian body politic runs deep and is even getting to be too much for the Malay Royal families. The 1MDB scandal may be the last straw. The Royal families are very keen to distance themselves from the shenanigans which the Prime Minister is now enmeshed in. So much so that the spectre of secession has been raised.

BBCMalaysians are no strangers to money politics but the high-profile players and the amount of funds allegedly involved in the so-called “1MDB scandal” have gripped the nation.

It stems from Prime Minister Najib Razak’s strategic state fund called 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) set up in 2009 when he came into office. The fund is meant to turn Kuala Lumpur into a financial hub. It started to attract national attention when it missed payments for the $11bn (£7.1bn; €9.9bn) it owes to banks and bondholders.

Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has said the fund has taken on too much debt and lacks transparency. He has also criticised Mr Najib’s family’s “lavish” lifestyle, which has been regularly discussed in the local press.

Then the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported it had seen a paper trail that allegedly traces close to $700m from the troubled fund to Mr Najib’s personal bank accounts. Mr Najib is now facing calls to prove his assets are legal.

The Southern state of Johor with its proximity to Singapore is exposed daily to the differences between what Singapore has achieved and what Malaysia has not. So much so that the Crown Prince has now followed his younger brother’s warning shot from June this year to remind the politicians in Kuala Lumpur that if the accession agreements of 1948 are breached then Johor could well decide to secede from the federation.

the 13 states in the Federation of Malaysia

The States of Sarawak and Sabah would follow Johor’s lead and while actual secession is probably a long, long, way away, this is the first time in a long while that I can remember secession being used as a threat – and being taken with some semblance of seriousness. There is even analysis to show that Johor could well go it alone

Malaysia Chronicle: His Royal Highness the Tengku Mahkota of Johor has stated that if Putrajaya breaches the terms behind the Federation of Malaya, Johor as a state may be forced to secede.

His Royal Highness also took great pains to echo the feelings of misery felt by millions and declared that the Royal family was “not a part of this current mess”.

From an economic point of view, how would Johor fare if it were to go its own way? Would it be better off or worse off?

Firstly, if Johor were to become an independent nation, it would probably be a monarchy, governed like an Emirate, as opposed to a Constitutional Monarchy. Some argue that given the experience of countries the last 10 plus years, monarchy as a form of Government may actually hold better prospects than democracy for young democracies with weak law enforcement.

From an economic point of view, Johor would (be) really well positioned. It would probably have extensive rail and tunnel links with Singapore and the flow of goods between Johor and Singapore will be more like the flow of goods between England and France. There would probably be at least two to three high speed rail links into Johor from Singapore creating a megapolis, albeit between two different countries.

As an independent state, Johor will need its own central bank. This will enable financial intermediation and ensure greater economic progress. But it would probably need to be capitalised with a loan of about US $10 billion. From then on, the Johor as an independent country will be responsible for management of its own domestic and external trade. ……

…… Johor as an independent developed state could easily hold a population of 10 million ten years after independence, which means that its GDP is a staggering USD $400 billion; comparable to the entire GDP of Malaysia. …….

Malaysia without Johor would mean a country sharing a border with Negeri Sembilan, Malacca and Pahang. Some parts of this border cuts through virgin jungle and Johor would be required to protect its border, much the same way as the Malaysia – Thai border is protected.

But this would probably mean the demise of Malaysia as a country. Johor can survive without Malaysia, but can Malaysia survive without Johor? Malaysia will probably enter into a severe economic recession and end up as a failed state should Johor secede.

The Malaysian government is not amused, but the general disgust with government ministers and the ruling party is now quite high. Even Mahathir, the former Prime Minister, has seen it as necessary to criticise the present regime.

Interesting times and a possible Balkanisation of Malaysia.

QZ8501: All presumed lost but why no wreckage yet?

December 29, 2014

Air Asia’s QZ8501, Airbus A320-200 most probably flew into a violent thunderstorm which it could not or did not avoid and suffered a catastrophic structural failure. This is plausible and pilots avoid violent thunderstorms if at all possible. Flying through a storm is most inadvisable and usually aircraft fly around them. Just this year, this could be the third aircraft (the others were cargo aircraft) to have been lost to a thunderstorm near the equator. But why no wreckage yet?

The pilots had requested permission to increase altitude from 32,000 to 38,000 feet to avoid bad weather but this change was denied by air traffic control presumably because of other traffic on this busy route. The denial is not unusual but the storm may have had a much greater vertical spread than expected. Thunderstorms in the Java Sea can sometimes have plumes (towers) extending up to 50,000 metres feet. In emergencies, commercial pilots are trained to first control the plane, then to navigate and only then to communicate. So the lack of a distress signal – is worrying – but not a reason to rush to conspiracy theories or to invoke magic. It does suggest that whatever happened happened fast. There were 23 no-show passengers booked on the plane but this also does not seem extraordinary for a flight leaving in the early hours.

BBC: He said the captain had more than 20,500 flight hours, almost 7,000 of them with AirAsia. The flight left Surabaya in eastern Java at 05:35 local time (22:35 GMT) and was due to arrive in Singapore at 08:30 (00:30 GMT).

The missing jet had requested a “deviation” from the flight path to avoid thick storm clouds, AirAsia said. Indonesia’s transport ministry said the pilot had asked permission to climb to 38,000ft (11,000m).

Ministry official Djoko Murjatmodjo said the request “could not be approved at that time due to traffic, there was a flight above, and five minutes later [flight QZ8501] disappeared from radar”.

Map

QZ5801 planned route

This morning one of the rescue officials said that the aircraft was probably at the bottom of the sea. But I have difficulty to reconcile a “catastrophic failure” with the absence of any wreckage. The weather is still bad in the most likely location. Perhaps more time is needed. The chance of survival for the 162 people on board is diminishing very fast.

The loss of 162 lives is tragedy enough but the thought of another “vanishing act” like MH370 without any wreckage or any other physical evidence is somehow even more disturbing. Can there be a catastrophic failure without the plane breaking up into smaller pieces where some would surely float? To be “at the bottom of the sea” would surely need that the aircraft went down largely intact or in very large pieces. Then why no “distress call”? Even an implausible lightning strike which disabled all power instantaneously may have caused the plane to descend very fast but it should not have disabled all communication devices.

Only questions about QZ8501 right now. But almost every question about MH370 is still open. The loss of life is deeply tragic. That Malaysian aviation could be singled out to be hit by 3 tragedies in one year is perplexing.  But the idea that the open questions will never be answered is terrifying.

 

AirAsia Flight QZ8501 goes missing

December 28, 2014

It is a dismal and tragic year for Malaysian aviation. If I were superstitious 2014 would be a cursed year.

After MH30 and MH17, Air Asia’s QZ8501 has gone missing on its way from Surabaya to Singapore. AirAsia is a Malaysian low-cost airline headquartered near Kuala Lumpur.

UPDATE: QZ8501 is believed to have crashed at the location 03.22.46 South and 108.50.07 East, in waters around 80 to 100 nautical miles from Belitung. Not confirmed.


Reuters:

Indonesia’s air force was searching for an AirAsia plane carrying 162 people that went missing on Sunday after the pilots asked to change course to avoid bad weather during a flight from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore.

Indonesia AirAsia Flight QZ8501, an Airbus 320-200, lost contact with Jakarta air traffic control at 6:17 a.m. (6.17 p.m. EST), officials said.

“The aircraft was on the submitted flight plan route and was requesting deviation due to enroute weather before communication with the aircraft was lost,” the airline said in a statement.

No distress signal had been sent, said Joko Muryo Atmodjo, air transportation director at Indonesia’s transport ministry. Indonesia AirAsia said there were 155 passengers and seven crew on board. It said 156 were Indonesian, with three from South Korea and one each from Singapore, Malaysia and France.

Six months since MH370 was “vanished” by somebody

September 8, 2014

Today it is 6 months since MH370 disappeared.

A most astonishing vanishing act and not a hint of an explanation in sight. The Vanishing has already passed into the category of “Great Mysteries of the Past”. All “plausible” explanations have been exhausted and only the implausible remain. MH370 has been overtaken by the shooting down of MH 17.

But it is MH370 which I find somehow very disturbing. Maybe because the only implausibly possible explanation is of a covert, callous action by a State or State agencies. One of the many theories even has it that “the plane purported to be MH17 at the crash site in Ukraine was actually MH370. Both aircraft were the same model but MH17 was a 1997 version as opposed to MH370, which Malaysia Airlines took ownership of in May 2002.”

But no explanation can provide any real solace for the relatives of the 239 passengers and crew who vanished (and died).

The search goes on.

Thursday, August 28

Malaysia Reaffirms Commitment to Search for MH370

Signs MOU with Australia for ongoing collaboration

…. Today, Malaysia signed an MOU with Australia which provides the framework and broad parameters for cooperation in the search for MH370. This forms an important part of our existing cooperation with Australia and reaffirms Malaysia’s commitment towards the search. 
 
In this regard Malaysia will provide the necessary financial contribution towards the search effort and match Australia’s commitment. The combination of undersea search equipment, world-class experts and cutting edge technology that is being used will be our best chance of finding MH370 and we are hopeful in our prospects of doing so. …..

Interpol attacks Malaysian Home Minister while Defence Ministry backtracks

March 29, 2014

I don’t think the Malaysian Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi can win this one. He was the one who first rushed to judgement and blamed (his own) immigration officers for incompetence in  not being able to detect “Asian looking” people carrying stolen European passports.

On Wednesday, Zahid told Parliament that consulting the Interpol database of of 40.2 million stolen passports was too time consuming for immigration officers and caused airport delays. The Malay Mail Online reported that Zahid maintained Malaysia’s immigration department had matched “world standards” when carrying out border control. He reportedly said immigration officers guarding Malaysia’s entry points were trained by other countries including the US, UK, Australia and Canada to carry out profiling and detect false travel documents.

In other words says Malaysiakini he maintains that:
Interpol has a facility that is inadequate. Hence the world is not secure from potential terrorists and illegals from easily entering nations with fake documents. Malaysia cannot be blamed. ….. The home minister’s claim certainly smacks of a failed if not an unreliable and impractical system being provided by Interpol. Hence Malaysia has taken an official stand why it has not and probably will not use Interpol’s SLTD and thus absolves itself of any blame for allowing would-be terrorists and illegal travels to depart from Malaysia on-board its national carrier to any destination in the world serviced by the airlines.
But Interpol has not taken this lying down. They have issued a press release rejecting Malaysia’s claim and they take the Malaysian Home Minister severely to task in less than diplomatic language:
Malaysia’s decision not to consult INTERPOL’s Stolen and Lost Travel Documents (SLTD) database before allowing travellers to enter the country or board planes cannot be defended by falsely blaming technology or INTERPOL. If there is any responsibility or blame for this failure, it rests solely with Malaysia’s Immigration Department.
INTERPOL’s SLTD database takes just seconds to reveal whether a passport is listed, with recent tests providing results in 0.2 seconds.
The fact is that the US consults this database more than 230 million times per year; the UK more than 140 million times; the UAE more than 100 million times and Singapore more than 29 million times. Not one of these countries, or indeed any INTERPOL member country, has ever stated that the response time is too slow.
The truth is that in 2014 prior to the tragic disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH 370, Malaysia’s Immigration Department did not conduct a single check of passengers’ passports against INTERPOL’s databases. ….. 
In this regard, despite this unjustified attack on INTERPOL, we remain ready, willing and able to help Malaysia better safeguard its citizens and visitors from those seeking to use stolen or fraudulently altered passports to board planes.
INTERPOL has no idea why Malaysia’s Home Minister chooses to attack INTERPOL instead of learning from this tragedy.
After years of witnessing countries fail to consult INTERPOL’s SLTD database prior to allowing travellers to cross borders and board planes, INTERPOL created I-Checkit which will allow airlines and cruise lines to ensure that no passenger can use a stolen or lost passport registered in INTERPOL’s database to board one of their planes or ships.
In the meantime the Malaysian Ministry of Defence is struggling to explain why they did not detect MH370 flying back through Malaysian airspace. The Deputy Defence Minister first came up with the story that it had been detected but was assumed to be following Air Traffic Control’s directions.

the malaysian insider: ….. deputy Defence Minister Datuk Abdul Rahim Bakri told Parliament today . “It was detected by our radar, but the turn back was by a non-hostile plane and we thought maybe it was at the directive of the control tower,” he said in winding up points raised by MPs on the King’s royal address.

But on the next day he had to backtrack,

malay mail online: “In relation to my statement in the debate on the royal address in Parliament last night (March 26, 2014) which said the MH370 flight may have turned back after receiving orders from the control centre. I wish to explain that it was only my andaian (assumption) and also possibilities that could have occurred. After carrying out checks, I wish to stress that my assumption was not accurate,” Abdul Rahim said in a two-paragraph statement issued by the Defence Ministry.

So it still remains unclear as to why the Malaysian military did not detect or did not react to the aircraft crossing over the country.


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